06/04/2014

Best Hadrian's Wall walk & best views guide: Path from Steel Rigg to Housesteads, via Sycamore Gap.

All you need to know to plan the best part of the Hadrian's Wall path to walk, including where the best views are, map route, some history facts and tips and lots of photos of what to expect on one of Britain's best walks


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Sycamore Gap - one of the most iconic and best Hadrian's Wall views on this stunning and historic short walk. Read on to find out exactly where Sycamore Gap is on Hadrian's Wall and how to get to Sycamore Gap (it's easy when you know how!)

Hadrian's Wall: The 'must-see' best bits on this walk:

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The view towards Housesteads Roman Fort, which is the best preserved Roman fort in the UK. A classic and must-see Hadrian's Wall view and one of Britain's best views on this short 3 mile Hadrian's Wall walk.
Hadrian's Wall Best View, on the best Hadrian's Wall Walk,
This impressive view gives a real sense of the rugged, rolling Northumbrian landscape that Hadrian's Wall covers and what a superb section of the wall it is to walk.

Overview of this short Hadrian's Wall walk that takes in the best views:


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  • Distance: 3.2  miles along the well marked path (If you get the Hadrian's Wall bus back from Housesteads to the Car Park)
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to Medium (There are a few little hills to climb on the path - but it's suitable for reasonably fit adults and children 7+)


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Map route of this 3 mile Hadrian's Wall Walk


Being 73 miles long and originally stretching from coast-to-coast, it can be a bit daunting for the first time visitor knowing how and where to visit Hadrian's Wall. However, some of the best views of Hadrian's Wall can be seen in this relatively short, slightly hilly, walk of around 3 miles (if you take the frequent bus service back to the car park).

I've done this walk a number of times now, sometimes with kids (if they can manage 3 miles!) and it's perfect for the tourist visitor who doesn't have much time on their hands. The best bit of Hadrian's wall to walk, is west to east from Steel Rigg to Housesteads (see map below), and then you can explore Housteads Roman Fort at the end of the walk and get a drink :-)

Map of the best Hadrian's Wall Walk Route - Steel Rigg to Housesteads Roman Fort, hadrians wall map
(Click map image to enlarge) The Ordnance Survey map of the best Hadrians wall walk (route highlighted in yellow) - the Hadrian's wall path is identified with the diamonds on the green dotted line. I parked at Once Brewed Visitor Centre (£4) and walked a short section of the wall from Steel Rigg to Housesteads Roman Fort, west to east. The frequent & punctual bus service (£1.20) was my preferred way to get back from Housesteads to Once Brewed! You can do a circular walk if you wish (and maybe take in Vindolanda on the way back) - but obviously this doubles the distance/time.




Hadrian's Wall - Very Brief History


Construction by the Romans began around 122 AD under the instructions of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It stretches 73 miles across Northern England from the Solway Firth on the West Coast to Wallsend in the East Coast and at the time all land south of the wall was part of the Roman Empire. Apparently the wall originally was around 16-20ft high in many parts (see photoshopped image below), but now not much of it is left in terms of height - being only a few feet high in places.



how high the original Hadrian's Wall must have looked
A photoshopped image found on the internet (link here) of how high the original Hadrian's Wall was and how Hadrian's Wall must have looked when it was built. Don't get too excited it's only a few feet high now....

Despite popular opinion, there is still no agreement on why the wall was built, some believe it was built to keep the "Barbarians" north of the wall at bay (Scotland as a term had not yet existed - these so-called Barbarians were the Picts and the Celts). Some scholars say those north of the border where not much of a threat really and it could be more likely the wall was just built to reflect the power of Rome and how far its Empire stretched.

The full Hadrian's Wall Route from coast to coast. My walk was only a very short part of this, covering the best, most scenic route, and began at the 'Once Brewed' point on the map above.





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My photos from this short Hadrian's Wall walk and the best views


The stretch of Hadrian's Wall covered below is on the Hadrian's Wall path from Steel Rigg to Housesteads, as shown in the map above. For a walk of about 3 miles I don't think there are many better or more interesting in the whole of the UK. Below are a few photos I took on my walk to give you a glimpse of what to expect and to help you plan your walk (everybody has got to visit Hadrian's Wall at least once!)

This is where we got on the actual Hadrian's Wall path at Steel Rigg and we head east.

The first time we glimpse Hadrian's Wall on this walk, going up East towards Peel Crags. We would now follow a path next to the wall for just under 3 miles and you can see some of the hills you will have to walk up.

View from the summit of Peel Crags looking back, towards Winshield Crags

Walking east along Peel Crags to Milecastle 39

Coming down the hill to Milecastle 39
First glimpse of Sycamore Gap, one of the best views on Hadrian's Wall.
First glimpse of Sycamore Gap, one of the best views on Hadrian's Wall.


Sycamore Gap, Hadrians Wall


One of the most popular, most photographed and best images of Hadrian's Wall is Sycamore Gap, made famous in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film. Now most of us know Robin Hood was supposed to be from the Nottingham area, but I guess the director took a bit of creative license and filmed in locations all over the North of England - whilst giving the impression it was all in the same place!



Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall walk, best view
The iconic Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall and one of the best views on this walk.


Where is Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall?


Before I had visited Sycamore Gap for the first time I had seen lots of photos of the place, but I had no idea where it was on the wall. It was also hard to figure out, even searching the web, exactly where it was - so I hope to shed some light on it's location for anyone else planning a visit!

Sycamore Gap is located just to the east of Milecastle 39 (maybe only 100m or so) - if you look at the map at the top of this page - Milecastle 39 is to the east of Steel Rigg - and to be exact on the map above, Sycamore Gap is actually just above the 'L' on the text 'MILECASTLE 39' - so not far at all from Milecastle 39. The closest place to park to sycamore gap is Steel Rigg car park or Once Brewed Car Park) - and it's about a 15minute walk east from these car park's to sycamore gap.



Sycamore Gap is definitely a good place to stop on this Hadrian's Wall walk fro a rest and a bite to eat!

We get back on the path and leave Sycamore Gap behind

Heading up to Highshield crags looking back to Sycamore Gap, Peel Crags and Windshield Crags in the distance

Now the walk follows the side of Crag Loch

A rare bit of shelter from the wind

Looking back over Crag loch with Windshield Crags in the far distance


The track now goes up beside Hotbank Farm House



Hadrian's Wall Best View, on the best Hadrian's Wall Walk,
This was one of the best views of the day on Hadrians Wall and you can see pretty much the entire route the walk along the wall has covered so far.


Hadrian's Wall Best View, on the best Hadrian's Wall Walk,
This impressive view gives a real sense of the rugged, rolling Northumbrian landscape that Hadrian's Wall covers and what a superb section of the wall it is to walk.

Hadrian's Wall Walk - best view - map - facts Roman wall
Heading east right besides Hadrian's Wall towards Housesteads Roman Fort with Broomlee Loch now in sight




Hadrian's Wall walk
There are quite a few ups and downs on this Hadrian's wall walk but nothing too strenuous

Best Hadrian's wall walk & best view: Steel Rigg to Housesteads, inc. Sycamore Gap
I didn't realise the Pennine Way came this far North. But on this walk we stay on the Hadrian's Wall route :-)




Housestead's Roman Fort - one of the best bits on the Hadrian's wall walk
Heading towards Housesteads Roman Fort -  if you are looking for a classic Hadrian's Wall view and one of the best bits on the Hadrian's wall walk, then this view is it. This particular view is my own favourite view of Hadrian's wall and indeed one of my best UK view's - it makes for a great photo and is a nice place to stop and soak in the view as  

Another photo of my favourite Hadrian's Wall view - I told you I like it :-)

Housesteads-roman-fort-hadrians-wall
The only part of the wall you can actually walk on as you approach Housesteads Roman Fort

We're nearing the end of the walk now right on top of Hadrian's Wall and approaching Housesteads Roman Fort...


Housesteads Roman Fort


The end of this particular Hadrian's Wall walk finishes at Housesteads Roman Fort which is really well preserved and worth a good look round. Here you can see the remains of the Granary. The pillars supported a raised wooden floor to keep the food dry. 


How Housesteads Roman Fort will have looked at the end of the third century


Also at Housesteads is a visitor centre and a cafe to get a bite to eat and a drink. It is from Housesteads where you can also get the Hadrian's Wall bus (see details below) back to the Once Brewed Visitor Centre car park and is what we did on this walk to keep it short.


Information on Hadrians Wall Bus (HWD Bus AD122)



In this walk we got a bus back to the carpark at Once Brewed Visitor Centre from Housesteads. If you want to see as much of the actual wall as possible, then a liner walk is probably best as you can go further, and the bus is very useful to get back to where you started. I found information on the bus service here (The bus you want is the HWD Bus AD122 - it departs roughly hourly - but check the exact times first using this link www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/explore/ad122-hadrians-wall-country-bus/ad122-timetable )




Vindolanda & the Roman Army Museum


If you have more time I would recommend checking out these 2 separate places as there is a lot to see and it lets you find out more about Hadrians Wall. (The distance between the 2 places is a 10/15 minute drive). At the Roman army museum you can watch a 3D film about Hadrian's wall called Edge of Empire, which gives you a taste of what the wall was like in Roman times. The film is on for 20 mins or so and runs every 30mins - view more info here www.vindolanda.com/doorway-articles/edge-of-empire-3d-film

You can buy a ticket for either place or one ticket costing a bit more which gets you access to both places. More info can be found here www.vindolanda.com




I hope you have found this blog post useful!


I really recommend a walk on this must-see section of the wall - as it offers in my opinion the best of what Hadrian's wall has to offer, and it's one of the best walks in England for that matter so I hope this blog post inspires you to want to visit it.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions - just post a comment and I'll try and answer. 


Blog Post by Stuart Hodgson, 'The Hiking Photographer'


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10 comments

  1. It would be so nice of you if you recommend other resources dedicated to this topic of course if you are aware of any.

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    1. Hi Dean - what sort of stuff do you think would be good on this blog as extra information? Accommodation and other places of interest?

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  2. Very helpful info for visiting the wall.

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    1. Just the info I've been searching for! It is hard to find the exact location of Sycamore Gap which I have wanted to visit since first watching Robin Hood (Prince of thieves). I have recently found out it is part of Hadrian`s Wall which I have also wanted to visit for a long time! I am very happy to discover it will only take 1hr 30mins for me to get to Once Brewed. I am planning a trip for my next day off and will maybe camp over to give enough time to visit Roman fort at Housesteads and Vindolanda. Fantastic photos! Thanks so much :)

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    2. No probs Julie -I was pretty much the same of you. First seen it on Robin Hood - then discovered it was Hadrians Wall. However the wall is a long distance so I had to do as much research as I could to figure out where to go - there wasn't much info kicking around - so thought I would help people with this blog post! Enjoy your trip. I'd love to stay over the night up there so i could try and get some sunset/sunrise pics in the same area

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  3. Did this walk 2 weeks ago and thought it was awesome! Searched on Google and found your page Stuart. Great photos, and now I need to go and do it again cos i walked past the tree.

    Good tips off here re. the bus and will use it next time.

    More walks please!

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    1. Glad it was of use to you Darrell. I'll try and get more walks on here!

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  4. Great walk on Saturday 21st June 2015, brilliant and would love to do again some time. The car park is 4 pounds now but still good value.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Patrick - I must do it again sometime soon too!

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